American Counseling Association
If you ever find yourself yelling, “How many times have I told you?” then you’re likely aware that words often are not going to fix many problems. Instead we find that the very behavior that drives us crazy continues to occur.
We’re often frustrated because we’re talking when we really ought to be acting. The common expression is, “Actions speak louder than words,” and that’s often true in our personal relationships. The cure is to take action that gets the message across.
Take that toddler in your house who would rather play with his food than eat it. Rather than yelling or repeatedly reprimanding him, instead smile and remove his plate as you calmly say, “I see you’ve finished your dinner.” Will he protest? Yes, and probably loudly, the act of having his dinner disappear, along with your explanation of why it happened, is almost always more effective than simply ordering him to eat.
Or how about a spouse who tends to overindulge at social events? You’ve been embarrassed in the past and have expressed your displeasure several times, all to no avail. Next time, instead of more fruitless complaining or a loud argument, take action by picking up the car keys, handing over ten dollars for that cab ride home and walking to your car and driving home.
There are many situations where taking action is the most effective course. Do you have a parent or in-law who is giving you headaches with daily calls to complain and criticize you? Instead of arguing with him or her about the problem, just inform the person that the next time he or she calls to criticize you’re simply going to hang up. Then follow through and do just that.
Similarly, if you have a teen who won’t abide by your curfew hours, rather than lecturing or arguing, simply explain clearly what action you are planning the next time it happens. It may mean cutting off an allowance or confiscating their cell phone for a period. When the next infraction occurs, carry through on the proposed action making it clear they brought it on themselves.
It’s important to take action with a positive, calm attitude. Yes, there will be protests, and yes, you will want to explain calmly what is happening and why, but the bottom line is that actions are much harder to ignore than simple words.
Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.counseling.org.